You know how some people like to “bag” Munros? Um, you probably don’t, do you? I think it’s a Scottish thing. Basically a Munro is a type of mountain: we have a whole bunch of them here, and people like to try to collect the set by climbing each one of them: a process known as “bagging”. I know, it sounded like it was going to be more interesting than that, didn’t it?
Anyway, some people like to “bag” Munros, Terry and I like to “bag” castles, by visiting as many of them as we can. (Our friends Ewen and Gillian are also castle baggers, but we don’t really talk about that because I think they’ve bagged more than us. Dammit!) On Easter Sunday, we decided to “bag” Glamis Castle in Angus, although as we’ve already visited it before, Glamis has technically been “double-bagged” by us now. I’ll stop with the “bagging” thing now, I promise.
I did blog about our last visit to Glamis, but as most of the photos in that post got eaten in The Disaster of 2009, and also because I’m trying to get back into the habit of treating this site more like the personal journal it was when I started it, here are some more. You’re welcome!
When I “bag” castles, I like to imagine that I actually own them. I had to kill 17 tourists in order to get this one photo of me standing in front of Glamis all Queen-of-the-Castle-like.
These are some flowers. They look like hearts. That’s the extent of my knowledge here, unfortunately.
Glamis is one of my favourite castles, not just because of the history (it was the childhood home of the Queen Mother, is the fictional setting of MacBeth, etc, etc) but also because of the ghosts. As Terry mentioned in his holiday journal last year, I’m a complete sucker for books and movies about mysterious old houses which have a deep, dark, secret: ideally one which involves a ghost. I can’t get enough of the things. Glamis seems to me like just such a place:
Seriously, tell me this place doesn’t look like it has a deadly secret…
Glamis does have a few quite famous ghosts, but we didn’t see any of them. I expect the throngs of tourists scared them away. This is probably a good thing. (Note: I don’t actually really believe in ghosts, I just like reading about them, and scaring myself silly later that night when the house is dark and silent, and there comes a sudden creak on the stairs…)
Speaking of Terry, which I, er, wasn’t really, quite a few of you have told me you’d like to see MOAR TERRY on this site, so here he is:
And here are the rest of the family, trying to ruin my prechus photo opp:
I got them back for it, though. I forced my dad to carry my emergency flats around all day:
And I didn’t even wear them, either.
And that was our Easter Sunday. How was yours?
P.S. A few weeks ago I realised, but totally forgot to mention, that Forever Amber turned 5 years old this March. The blog, I mean, not me, the person. I’m a bit older than that, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it, would you? Anyway, I have this huge(ish) archive of posts just sitting here doing nothing, so I thought it might be amusing to take a look back at what I was doing on this day (or thereabouts) in…
It’s been a horrendously stressful couple of weeks. This is the kind of thing that’s been helping us get through it:
Well, that and the wine. Oh, and watching my parents and Terry slide down Arthur’s Seat on their butts yesterday helped too, although maybe not at the time. I mean, when Terry fell, he was clutching Rubin in one hand and our brand new, hideously expensive camera in the other. He raised both of them above his head as he coasted gently down the hillside. My mum, meanwhile, fell once, fell twice, and then couldn’t stop laughing for the rest of the day. Then, when we looked back at the photos of the day we discovered that Rubin had been Up to Stuff we hadn’t even noticed at the time:
(We didn’t write that message, we just stood next to it and claimed credit for it. Which actually reminds me of something else that’s going on in my life right now, I just can’t remember what it is…)
Do you see what he did there?
He is totally standing on my shoulders, OMG! And I had to carry him like that aaaaalllll day.
Wolves. You can always depend on them to put a smile on your face.
(Just one of the hills we’ve had to climb this month. At least this one was our choice…)
(P.S. There are more photos from our Arthur’s Seat expedition over at Shoeperwoman.)
Mt Flickr Pro account expired a couple of weeks ago, and I’m too mean to pay to renew it right now, so I’m afraid that means some of the photos I would normally have posted there are getting stuck here instead: sorry.
These were taken today, on our first day trip of the year – and given that we were up to our ankles in snow just a couple of weeks ago, it was a joyous occasion indeed. These photos were taken today at Seacliff Beach, in East Lothian: it’s our favourite Scottish beach, and as it’s my mum’s birthday tomorrow (Happy Birthday, mum!) we celebrated with champagne and chocolate cake on the beach: yum!
Here’s hoping for enough good weather to let us have a few more days like this…
So, Autumn hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared. Not so far, anyway. I realise I’ve just cursed it by saying that, and I’ll wake up tomorrow to ten feet of snow, but for now: not so bad. It’s been sunny. It hasn’t been too cold. And so we’ve been taking advantage of the (relatively) nice weather, to do some more touristy stuff. I actually think Autumn is the best time to visit Scotland: the colours are beautiful, the light is kind of dreamy and other-worldly, and you get to wander around the grounds of all of these beautiful old castles and stately homes more or less by yourself. Sometimes we actually feel like it’s OUR HOUSE we’re strolling around, and thank God it isn’t because can you imagine having to cut all that grass?
You don’t get to wander around the inside of the castles by yourself, though. This weekend we went to Blair Castle, which, fact fans, is Scotland’s most visited stately home, and also known as “That Big White One With the Turrets”. It’s a self-guided tour so, in theory, you’re on your own. In reality, though, you will find that The Others are hiding around every corner. When we arrived there appeared to be no one else there, but we’d walk into these totally empty rooms, and the next thing we knew there would be 50 other people all crowding in beside us and wanting to look at the EXACT thing I was looking at, while standing on the EXACT same spot. Bizarre.
Anyway, Blair Castle is wonderful. It’s probably the prettiest castle I’ve been to, and it has beautiful grounds, with ponies and Highland cattle and red squirrels and stuff. Like last weekend, and our trip to Glamis, it was just really good to get away for the day, get some sunshine while we still can, and have ourselves a little mini holiday. It’s exactly what we’ve needed after the stress of the week, basically.
Now we just have to decide where to go NEXT Sunday…
I know, it’s ironic, isn’t it – an entire post just crammed with photos, mere days after I whine about people stealing my images! Like I said, though, I’m not going to stop posting photos because of these idiots, although I have added watermarks to these ones (for all the good it’ll do), and I’m going to try and host my images here on my blog rather than on Flickr, too. Again, I know that won’t stop people stealing them, but it’ll hopefully simplify things a bit by keeping everything in the same place.
On Sunday, Terry and I decided, more or less on a whim, to go to Glamis Castle, which, as some of you will know, was the childhood home of the Queen Mother, and the place where MacBeth killed Duncan in the Shakespearean play. (Not in real life, though – Shakespeare made that bit up). It also has more than its fair share of ghosts, myths and legends, which is exactly how a castle should be, I always think. Scooby and the gang would love it.
Photography is forbidden inside the castle, so these are all pictures of the grounds. Except this one:
Last week Amber’s Magic iPhone predicted that yesterday (Sunday) would be the only dry day we’d be getting for a long, long time: possibly the last one ever, for all I know. We knew we should probably try and make the most of this by doing something other than mowing the lawn and messing around on Twitter, so when my parents said they were planning a trip to Lindisfarne, in the north of England, Terry, Rubin and I decided we’d go along for the ride. We’re annoying like that.
First, though, we went to North Berwick, for a quick, Famous Five-style adventure, with old castles and rocky coves and smugglers and stuff:
(You can totally imagine the smugglers, and the adventures, and the lashings and lashings of ginger beer this place must’ve seen over the years, no?)
This beach isn’t actually in North Berwick itself, but very close to it. It was on the way down to the sand that my family realised I was trying to kill them:
How we laughed.
After that, we went to Cove, but didn’t didn’t take any pictures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Then we headed across the border and down through Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Lindisfarne, a.k.a. The Holy Island. Lindisfarne is only an island when the tide’s in: when it’s out, the island can be accessed by car, via a causeway which was really quite spectacular to drive across: Terry described it as “otherworldly”, which pretty much sums it up. Makes you wonder why we didn’t bother to take any photos of that, either, eh?
We did, however, take some photos on the island itself. It’s called The Holy Island because there’s a lot of, um, holy stuff on it. Like this ruined priory, which is the burial place of St Cuthbert, apparently:
No, the land isn’t ACTUALLY at that angle. Just tilt your head and imagine it.
And this pretty church:
Best of all, though:
Ruined castle FTW!
Then we came home, stopping into North Berwick again to buy fish and chips, which we ate looking out over the sea. Fabulous. Since we got back, I’ve spent more or less all of my time searching for coastal properties in East Lothian which are within our price range. Conclusion: there are none. Which is a shame, because I really think if I could just buy a house by the sea, I’d be inspired to finish my novel, and would maybe even stop whining about the loss of the green dress for a few minutes. (Yes, it’s still lost. No, I’m not over it.) I’ll keep looking.
And that was how we spent what the MET office tells us may well be The Last Dry Day of the Summer. It was a good way to spend it, I think.
Rubin thought so too. And he didn’t suffer any ill-effects from his attempt to drink the ocean, either, so a good time was had by all!
Not long after I published that post, I started getting comments/tweets from people suggesting that, hey, that whole “barbed wire ripped my skin open” thing? Might want to get that looked at, you know? On account of the RISK OF TETANUS from these things?
Naturally, I reacted to this news in exactly the way you’d expect: I freaked the hell out. Then I emailed my mum.
“Wah!” I said. “Am dying! Have tetanus! Wah!”
“Not dying,” said my mum. “Just over-reacting.”
Terry agreed. But I was not placated, and after some more whining on my part, Terry finally cracked and suggested I call NHS 24, which, for the benefit of those of you who don’t live in Scotland, is a 24-hour advice line which the NHS started up a few years ago in order to stop people like me rocking up to their doctor’s surgery with a tiny scratch on their foot.
By the time NHS 24 called me back, of course, I had convinced myself that this was exactly what I was doing: making a drama out of absolutely nothing. Because, let’s face it, it wouldn’t be the first time, would it? I had also convinced myself I would probably be fined for wasting NHS time or something, so when the lovely lady whose job it was to “handle” me called, I decided to try and downplay things.
“Tiny scratch!” I said, nonchalantly. “Barely visible! Nothing to see here, folks! Will move along now, thanks!”
“Nah,” said the lovely lady. “Tetanus. Get injection. Or possibly die.”
(*Note: not what she actually said.)
That was how I came to find myself, not forty minutes later, sitting in the waiting room at the doctor’s surgery, with no makeup, hastily dried hair, and a “tween” boy next to me blasting music out of the TINNY SPEAKERS of a mobile phone.
(Note: one day when I rule the world I will gather up all the tinny speakers and I will DESTROY them. And don’t think I won’t. I am actually thinking of adding an additional category to this blog, which I will call “Times Teenagers With Tinny Speakers Have Really Annoyed Me”, because it’s getting to the point where I can’t go anywhere – NOT ANYWHERE – without it happening. Anyway.)
Time passed, like… a really slow thing, passing. But finally I was ushered in to see the Lovely Nurse, who, seriously, was so lovely I wanted to bring her home with me. A lengthy debate then ensued between Lovely Nurse and Disembodied Voice Woman From The Next Room on the subject of what the hell to do with me. You see, they weren’t at all sure I needed to be immunised against tetanus. I’d been immunised before, but that was in 1991. Did I need to be immunised again? Lovely Nurse thought not. Disembodied Voice Woman thought maybe yes. Eventually they decided that, what the hell, I was there, and they were there, and all of the painful needles were there, so hey, let’s have an immunisin’, y’all!
“Tetanus lives in the soil, after all,” said Disembodied Voice Woman. “Better to be safe than sorry.”
So it was on. But it was to be a triple whammy! Not only was I to be immunised against tetanus, I was also to be immunised against polio and diphtheria. “Because they all come in one injection now,” said Lovely Nurse. So, basically, it’s like Diseases ‘R’ Us in my bloodstream right now. Great!
“Before I do this,” she said, rolling up my sleeve, “I have to tell you something about how the injection could possibly react with you. If, say, your throat suddenly starts to close up, and you feel a bit…” – she raised her hands to her throat and pantomimed someone choking to death, slowly and painfully - “don’t come back here, OK? Dial 999. If, on the other hand, you just feel like a horse has kicked you in the arm, that’s normal. Just take some painkillers.”
My eyes widened in horror. “I’m a hypochondriac, by the way,” I said. “I think I can feel my throat closing up now.”
But she didn’t listen, and instead she held me down and injected me. It was a bit like being in a scene from 24, in which Jack Bauer goes all crazy-eyed and says, “Tell me where the bombs are, or I will immunise you against potentially deadly diseases!” Only not really, obviously, because, like I said, that nurse? Was lovely.
I still spent the next few hours thinking my throat was closing up, and I was choking to death, though.
EDIT: Terry has just reminded me that the child at the doctor’s was, in fact, listening to his mobile phone through tinny earbuds, not tinny speakers. But they may as well have been speakers, the music was THAT LOUD.
On Sunday, we decided to take the dog for a walk around Linlithgow Loch. Terry has done this walk before: it’s short, and there’s a proper footpath, so I figured I’d be OK in these:
You see the sticking plaster on the side of my foot? More about that later. For now, just know that Terry didn’t seem to see anything wrong with my footwear either, and so off we went.
Halfway to Linlithgow, though, Terry pulled over to the side of the road. “Hey,” he said. “Let’s not go to Linlithgow Loch. Let’s just climb that instead!”
“That” was Binny Craig. Why yes, it WAS kind of steep! And what’s that? Stinging nettles, you say? All over the ground? Meaning that by the time I reached the top (crawling on my hands and knees, natch), my feet were a red, swollen mess? Yes, that too. Also, there were teenagers up there. They were playing music through those FREAKING tinny speakers kids always have with them now, so even way the hell out in the peaceful, quiet countryside, you’re forced to listen to someone else’s music. This made me want to throw them all over the side of the hill, but unfortunately for me I’m terrified of teenagers, so I didn’t. Also, Rubin had apparently set aside that special time to be an ass, and while I was crawling on my hands and knees up the slope, he was trying to crawl under my belly. WHY?
A few weeks ago, I decided – pretty much on a whim – to start tracing my family tree. I think, like most people who do this, I was secretly hoping I’d find out I was directly descended from Cleopatra or something, although, as it turns out, that would be pretty difficult because, with the exception of one adventurous branch of the family who emigrated to the States in the 19th century, only to return ten years later (possibly thrown out?), it would seem my ancestors have spent hundreds of years diligently mining coal all over Scotland, except for a few renegade souls, who mined clay instead. I’d imagine it was a bit like living inside a DH Lawrence novel, only grittier, and more Scottish.
My ancestors also appear to have cunningly avoided doing anything that might have drawn attention to themselves throughout their lives, which makes them a little harder to trace. I didn’t read all of those Famous Five books as a child for nothing, though, so I have persevered, and one thing I have managed to find out (mostly because it was, er, already known to my parents) is that my maternal great-grandparents, and their parents before them, lived in Helensburgh, which is a little town on the Clyde, in the west of Scotland.
Anyway, this Sunday was Easter, obviously, but it was better known in our family by the much more important title of “My Mum’s Birthday”, so, to celebrate, my dad thought it would be a nice idea to take my mum “back to her roots”, so to speak, and take a little drive to Helensburgh. And because Terry and I like to hang around like a bad smell all the time, we went too. Look, here’s me and my mum having a whale of a time in the local cemetery! Happy Easter!
Honestly, if there’s a better way to celebrate your mother’s birthday than by taking her to a graveyard, I don’t know what it is. Happy birthday, mum!
Unfortunately, our ancestors continued to be elusive, and we didn’t manage to find any of their graves – we think they’re probably unmarked, or marked by a tree or something – so we drew a blank there. We did, however, have a few addresses we knew some of them had lived in, and we managed to find those. Here’s me, Terry and Rubin looking slightly suspicious as we loiter outside the building my great-grandfather once lived in:
West Princes Street
Note: he was not a dentist. And actually, despite what I said above, these Helensburgh ancestors weren’t coal miners either, or even clay miners. No, my great-grandad was a plasterer, which I would imagine was quite daring of him at the time. We visited a couple of other streets we knew the family had lived on, but although most of the rest of the streets were still intact, and dated back to the late nineteeth/early twentieth century, the buildings the early Forever Ambers had lived in had been knocked down. We’re assuming this had nothing to do with our family, but you never really know…
Anyway, because nothing works up a good appetite quite like poking around graveyards, we retired to the waterfront to eat ice cream and bags of greasy chips. Here are the disembodied heads of me and my parents floating above a host of golden daffodils:
Daffodils: host of
I have my eyes closed because, seriously, you have no idea how many photos I have managed to ruin by doing that. It’s like some freaky skill I have, to always know the exact moment the shutter will close, and to close my eyes in sympathy with it. Here’s a rare shot of me with my eyes open, just after lunch:
I like to think my ancient ancestors once stood on this same spot, gazing pensively out over the Clyde and thinking deep thoughts. Sadly for them, though, they were probably too busy huddling together for warmth or weaving rough sweaters out of coal, or whatever people did in those days, to have much time for pensive staring. Which was probably a good thing, really, because look where Pensive Staring has got me?
After that, we drove along the Clyde to Loch Long, which is a loch, and is long:
Loch Long: both long and loch-like
Loch Long has no associations with my ancestors, as far as I know, but my uncle did almost catch his death of cold once in Arrochar, on its banks, so it sort of counts.
Then we went to Loch Lomond, which, again, has absolutely nothing to do with our family, but which is just nice. Its banks were looking suitably bonny, I thought:
"Mountains, Gandalf, mountains!" (for Erin)
And then we came home. So, in conclusion, we didn’t find out too much about my ancestors, but a good day was had by all:
Yesterday, to my very great surprise, there was clearly some kind of disturbance in the Force, and the weather changed from “Unbelieveably, heart-rendingly awful” to an approximation of a pleasant spring day. That’s about as good as it gets in Scotland, so naturally we all (“we all” being my parents, Terry, the dog and I) jumped into the car and headed to the beach.
The beach we went to was at North Berwick, which,as some of you know, has the distinction of being my Favourite Place in the Whole of Scotland. It’s a pretty little seaside town, with lots of little restaurants and bars, and oh, a great big old volcanic plug, called Berwick Law. Here is a picture of Berwick Law :
Here is a picture of me, Terry and Rubin on the very top of Berwick Law, which is steeper than it looks, let me tell you:
And here is a short video of me falling flat on my ass on the way back down:
Notice the way my family all come rushing to my aid… they clearly weren’t too concerned, because obviously I do this kind of thing A LOT. The long pause after I land was caused partly by my reluctance to accept my own clumsiness, and partly by my quiet conviction that I had broken my right wrist. Which I hadn’t, luckily.
Just a few minutes after this I almost fell again, the result being that my parents had to take an arm each, and half-carry me down the hill, like Amy Winehouse being escorted out of a nightclub. As my dad said, people were probably looking at us thinking, “Tut, tut, drunk in the middle of the day!” This time, though, my complete inability to walk unaided was caused by my shoes, which my dad described as “ridiculous” and I described as “the only flat shoes I own, what do you expect me to wear?” So, yes, fun for all the family! And ridiculous shoes = the only kind you’ll ever need…
Actually, falling-on-ass aside, we had an excellent day, and I have spent most of my time since we got back looking at property prices in North Berwick on the internet, because it’s one of the few places in Scotland I can actually imagine myself being happy to live in. It’s only 30 minutes from Edinburgh by train, and I’ve always wanted to live by the sea, but unfortunately so do a lot of other people, as property is really expensive there, and as things stand, Terry and I could possibly stretch to a one bedroom flat, but only if we give up food and send Rubin out to work. Still, it’s a more realistic dream than my “cross my fingers and hope the American government will let me live in Florida” one, so I’m going to continue to persue it.